Oh, take me back to the Russian island of Sakhalin – and its all too British weather

Plus, forget the green onesie, against all odds Nick Clegg's weekly radio phone-in on LBC is fast becoming must-listen

Share

In like a lion and out like a lamb or, as seems to be happening this year, the other way round. March has a habit of springing surprises, but it was still with some incredulity – and, yes, I admit, not a little smugness – that I watched the TV coverage of lorries stranded on the M23 and blizzards sweeping Scotland, from a hotel room overlooking the sun-lit shore of the eastern Mediterranean.

Scotland’s blizzards continue, along with the school closures, the transport disruption and everything else that comes in their wake. But what this year’s retreat of spring confirms, after the briefest of sightings at the start of the month, is that our weather really deserves to be a talking point. This is part of the thesis of a new book by Richard Mabey, with the charming, rather retro title Turned out Nice Again, which considers our preoccupation with the weather.

The point is, though, that our ability to make small talk – and even big conversation – about the weather would not be a mystery to most foreigners. They might ridicule it, but as they, and anyone who has lived outside the UK for any length of time, will cheerfully attest, British weather is peculiar. There are not many places in the world where outdoors is so volatile – where sun and showers alternate with such speed, where summer can suddenly become so cold, or winter become so warm, or a rainbow so summarily end a storm.

You probably learnt at school, as I did, that the British Isles have a “maritime climate”, but that was a bit of a simplification. We have a maritime climate that is also peculiar to our latitude, and which is additionally influenced by the Gulf Stream and the proximity of the Continent. You can sense a change the moment you cross the Channel. Even northern France and the Benelux countries are ever so slightly different from us; that bit more predictable, that bit drier. Travel farther east or across the Atlantic and you are soon in a full-on Continental climate.

On my travels, I’ve found very few places where the weather feels anything quite like our own. The Canadian Maritimes are like Scotland, but not quite. There’s some affinity with parts of Japan. But it is only in Sakhalin – the island where Russia’s tsars sent their prisoners – that I felt at home, weather-wise. Cool, damp, often foggy, and unpredictable, Sakhalin’s climate seems oh-so familiar. No wonder we talk about the weather; it has – as Mabey is hardly the first to observe – contributed, in a very elemental way to the national character. 

Yes, do call Nick Clegg

What with Chris Huhne and Lord Rennard, the Lib Dem leader has had his recent tribulations, not all of which were expunged by the victory at Eastleigh. But Nick Clegg risks having another success, with his weekly phone-in on LBC, which is fast becoming a must-listen.

So far, Clegg has vouchsafed, among much else, that he has a green Onesie (unworn), that he agonised about where to send his son to school, that he would not be visiting Huhne in prison. He comes across as informed, personable and relaxed. He makes headlines – invariably of the right sort. Here’s the Clegg whose pre-election debates came as such a revelation.

LBC boasts that this is the first time a Cabinet minister has had a regular radio slot – though Margaret Thatcher had an open invitation from Jimmy Young. But for the Deputy PM who, as the junior partner in a coalition, can struggle to get his message out, it’s a commendable move, and one that other politicians might emulate – if, that is, they have the guts. 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women are less likely to become scientists and engineers  

International Women's Day: How much could be achieved if we scrapped the idea of 'male' jobs?

Anne Richards
Dame Maggie Smith stars in Downtown Abbey as Countess Violet  

We need to see Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon on stage again

David Lister
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable